By Steve Hubrecht 

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A local teen has returned to the Columbia Valley from South America, where he represented Canada at a youth soccer tournament.

David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS) student Caden McMurray spent 10 days in Peru in mid to late April as a member of Canada’s U18 (under age 18) team at the IFA7 Copa America Raising Stars seven-a-side soccer tournament.

“It was a great experience,” Caden told the Pioneer, a week after he got back to Canada. “I was super excited to be able to go play soccer in a different country.”

Caden and his teammates were in Lima, Peru’s capital, for their entire stay. There was the soccer, of course, but the teens still found time to get out for walks around the bustling metropolis, visiting parks and some of the coastal city’s famous beaches.

“Just watching the waves come in was amazing. The beaches were surrounded by cliffs,” said Caden, adding that compared with a small town such as Invermere, Peru seems very populated indeed. “The driving is crazy, if there’s any space (between vehicles) drivers will take it.”

Caden and his Canadian teammates played multiple games over the course of 10 days. They played their initial games in a group stage, winning one of those matches, which was enough to earn a spot in the semi-finals. They lost their semi-final, and then lost again in the bronze medal match, but their performance was still enough to earn them fourth place out of the six nations participating in the tournament. Other countries taking part — aside from Canada and the host nation Peru — were Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia.

In Peru, as all over Latin America, there is “big interest” in soccer, explained Caden. The games he played in had fireworks going off, smoke flares set off by the crowd watching the game, and plenty of loud music “just like in the pro games”, he said. All of the games were televised and a lot of people were watching.

Seven-a-side is a quicker, smaller version of the normal 11-a-side version of soccer. In seven-a-side there are, obviously, fewer players (seven per team) and the game is played on a smaller-than-normal pitch.

The smaller field means there’s not quite as much running as in a normal soccer game (because there is less space on the pitch) but also means that “things seem to happen more quickly. You have to make decisions more quickly,” outlined Caden. “It’s a faster pace. There’s less time to think.”

A common lineup in seven-a-side soccer includes one goalkeeper, two defenders, three midfielders and a lone forward up top. Caden played most of the tournament in midfield, but also spent some time in defence.

He ended up on the Canadian team after playing in a seven-a-side tournament in Calgary last summer and being spotted by a coach. Caden is currently finishing off Grade 11 at DTSS and participates in the Vancouver Whitecaps’ Cranbrook-based Kootenay Caps-to-College programs, with the hope of eventually playing soccer at the university level.